Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an election overhaul into law Tuesday that adds more voting restrictions which voting rights advocates say unfairly target people of color and seek to preserve Republican dominance. The passage of the legislation follows months of protests by Democrats and civil rights groups across the nation.
“Election integrity is now law in the state of Texas,” Abbott said after signing the bill during a ceremony in the East Texas city of Tyler, home to the voting bill’s main author, Sen. Bryan Hughes. The county is also a strong support base for former President Donald Trump
Senate Bill 1 imposes restrictions on mail-in voting, prohibits 24-hour and drive-thru voting, eliminates some early voting options, adds criminal penalties for voting law violations and empowers partisan poll watchers. The rewrite of Texas’ voting laws are the target of at least three federal lawsuits — including another filed Tuesday — and all contend the changes will have a disproportionate impact on minorities.
“Instead of working on issues that actually matter, like protecting school kids from Covid or fixing our failing electrical grid, Abbott is focused on rigging our elections and implementing extreme rightwing policies,” commented former congressman and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Beto O’Rourke. “Abbott’s agenda of criminalizing abortion, permitless [gun] carry, anti-mask mandates and voter suppression is killing Texans and limiting their voting rights to elect more responsible leaders.”
Abbott, however, maintains that the legislation is intended to expand access. “I feel extremely confident that when this law makes it through the litigation phase, it will be upheld,” the governor said. “Because exactly what we’ve said, it does make it easier for people to be able to go vote. No one who is eligible to vote will be denied the opportunity to vote.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, minority rights groups and disability advocates are part of a broad coalition that filed separate lawsuits last week in federal court in Texas, accusing Republican lawmakers of violating the federal Voting Rights Act and intentionally discriminating against minorities.